State News

NC governor vows executive order to expand LGBT protections

Posted May 16

— Gov. Roy Cooper vowed Tuesday to act on his own to improve LGBT protections in North Carolina, where he faces criticism for compromising with Republicans to partially repeal a law limiting anti-discrimination protections.

"I'm going to issue an executive order pretty soon that is comprehensive, that helps with LGBT protections," Cooper said during a conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by the liberal group Center for American Progress.

Any Cooper executive order would be limited. It could cover the state agencies he controls, but legislators also could override him. The GOP-controlled legislature didn't do that when Republican Gov. Pat McCrory ordered state employees protected from gender and sexual orientation discrimination a month after House Bill 2 passed.

Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said he couldn't provide further details.

Republican legislative leaders said they'll wait and see.

Amy Auth, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, declined comment until seeing the proposed order. Rep. David Lewis, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, said he'd accept an executive order that is as narrowly tailored as McCrory's.

LGBT advocates have denounced Cooper for compromising with the Republican-majority General Assembly on a repeal of House Bill 2 that only partially erased its impact. HB2 required transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings. It also limited anti-discrimination protections for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people.

The new law still prohibits local governments from barring sexual identity and gender discrimination in workplaces, restaurants and hotels, until after the next gubernatorial election in 2020. And it declares that legislators, not local governments, are in charge of any future restroom policies.

Cooper has said the compromise is still a step forward that brought boycotting sports groups and businesses back to North Carolina. He said his alternative would have been to reject a deal and allow the blowback against the state to build.

Instead, the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference have said they would again hold championship events in North Carolina, and Credit Suisse last week said HB2's partial repeal was enough for it to add 1,200 jobs near Raleigh.

"As governor, as the leader of my state, knowing what it has done to the reputation of my state, and the signal that it sends to LGBT citizens and everyone, I knew we had to make a step," Cooper said.

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Follow Emery P. Dalesio on Twitter at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/emery%20dalesio

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Associated Press statehouse reporter Gary D. Robertson contributed to this report.

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